On this day I had a great adventure! My wife, Jackie and I had traveled over to Cumberland County, NC to an area which was called Carver’s Creek back in the 1770’s. Jackie and I had just visited this place several weeks prior in search of the final resting place of Captain Nathan King who had served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. I had been reading a book about a branch of the King family of which I am a member and in this book, written by Oscar Benjamin King of Texas. He happened to describe a place he had visited on the banks of the Cape Fear River just north of Fayetteville, North Carolina where there was an old cemetery that he referred to as the Bell-King Cemetery. According to O. B. King, Captain Nathan King, from whom he descended, and many other of his family were buried in this old cemetery which was situated above the Cape Fear River near where the old family home once stood. From information O.B. King provided in his book, it was obvious that he had visited this site in Cumberland County back in the 1960’s. So I asked Jackie if she thought the cemetery was still there. I was so intrigued about this possibility that I told her that I was going to follow the directions supplied by O.B. King in his book and see if I could locate this old cemetery and determine if it really was the final resting place of the Revolutionary War Soldier, Captain Nathan King, along with other members of his family as his book claimed. Well, Jackie decided that I wasn’t going to this remote area alone and that she would accompany me. So Jackie and I decided to make the trip over to Cumberland County and see if we could find this old cemetery on our own.
Our first visit to Cumberland County in search of the Bell-King Cemetery to find the final resting place of Nathan King, we spent hours searching through some very difficult terrain which at times required getting down on our hands and knees to locate our target but no success. Finally after spending hours in this process and coming up empty in our quest, we decided to visit the nearby Kelly Springfield Tire Plant and seek their assistance. I had read in O.B. King’s book (Our King Family—Their Ancestors, In-Laws, and Descendants; 1970) that a rubber manufacturing company had run a large pipeline through the cemetery containing Nathan King’s grave. Although neither my wife nor I saw any signs of this pipe, we thought that Kelly Springfield might be the current owners of the property we were investigating, and they might be able to help us in our search. After inquiring at the entrance gate, we were introduced to Ricky Evans, Director of Public Relations for the Fayetteville Branch of Kelly-Springfield Inc. Mr. Evans produced a map which indicated the presence of a cemetery between their property and the west bank of the Cape Fear. According to Mr. Evans, the exact location of this cemetery was not located on Kelly-Springfield property. The property was currently owned by Mr. Franklin Clark who he happened to know personally. Mr. Evans explained that sometime in the last year some else had inquired about the same cemetery and he thought, as a result, Mr. Clark had deeded the cemetery property to some members of the King family. Mr. Evans provided directions as to where he thought the cemetery was located and some information on how to contact Mr. Clark if we needed further assistance with our project.
My wife and I resumed our search after leaving Kelly-Springfield on that first visit to Carver’s Creek; however, we continued to come up empty in finding the elusive cemetery which included the final resting place of Nathan King. We attempted to contact Mr. Clark in order to obtain better directions, however having no luck, we decided to head back to norther Wayne County and to try another day. On arriving back home, I decided to try to contact Franklin Clark once more to find out more information. He was very cordial and helpful and he had visited the cemetery and was aware of its significance and that in recent months had deeded the property to some of the descendants of Nathan King but could not remember their names. Mr. Clark wanted the cemetery to be preserved and he furnished us with the name and address of the attorney who handled the transferal of the deed.
I cannot move forward in my story without telling more about Franklin Clark. Many North Carolinians might know him better as Rusty Clark of the UNC “Tarheel” basketball fame, as he was a star player for Coach Dean Smith in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. My younger brother, Tom, happened to marry a pretty young lady from Charlotte, NC in February, 1975. She had experienced a childhood crush on a certain UNC “Tarheel” basketball player by the name of none other than Rusty Clark. Now, when their first and only child came along a few years later they named him Rusty Campbell King after this same Rusty Clark of the UNC fame. According to my sister-in-law, Debbie Zane Dover King met Franklin “Rusty” Clark sometime when her Rusty was playing in a basketball game during his teenage years, and she passed on the fact to her Rusty was his namesake.
Now back to the main story, my wife and I decided to go back to Carver’s Creek and hunt for the Bell-King Cemetery and the final resting place of Captain Nathan King once more. And so, armed with the information supplied to us by Mr. Clark, we made another trip over to the west side of the Cape Fear River and a short distance north of the city limits of Fayetteville, NC. This time Jackie decided to stay in the car and wait for me to work my way through an area filled with fallen trees, vines, briars, clumps of tall grass, fire ant hills and several animal carcasses as I searched for the old cemetery. This time, after about thirty minutes had passed and I had reached an area of woods composed of pine and oak trees. I caught a glimpse of an old metal gate, still standing and connected to the remnants of a wire fence. It was rather strange that the gate was still closed; however, it was not difficult to get around it as the wire fence offered no obstacle as it was pressed down close to the ground. It was difficult to control my excitement as I moved on by the gate and deeper into the cemetery. Yes, I had read about this cemetery. Yes, I had read about those who were supposedly buried there. And, yes I had doubted that I would ever see these things for myself. And now, here I was, I could see the tombstones and read them for myself. I moved quickly to make sure that this was the actual burial place of Captain Nathan King prior to alerting Jackie of what I had finally located. And there it was, the well preserved tombstone of Nathan King which was inscribed “Nathan King, Capt., Armstrong’s NC Regt., Rev. –War, Died December 31, 1833.” This is what Jackie and I had been searching for and now we had succeeded in finding. I was overjoyed as I hurried back to the car to tell Jackie what I had found and to retrieve the cameras. I felt as though I had just made a hole-in-one hit or a homerun. What a great day? It wasn’t just in a book! I had seen it for myself! I had touched the tombstones!
With Jackie’s help we managed to video all the tombstones which were visible. Some were more difficult to read than others; however we took our time and tried to clean them as best we could. There appeared to be several graves marked by rocks and some had remnants of wooden markers. Most of the graves were those of children of Captain Nathan King and wife, Flora McDuffie King, as well as others were members of their families. One grave marker was very close to that of Capt. Nathan King was that of James A King, 2nd Lt. in Co. B of the 56th NC Infantry, CSA, who was a grandson. It is probable that James A. King was really buried somewhere else. It is very possible that Jackie and I did not locate all the graves that were in this old cemetery as “Mother Nature” had provided a thick forest floor of leaves compiled over many years which most likely camouflaged some. Jackie and I found the scene at this cemetery of long ago both beautiful and peaceful, yet also, sad and somewhat depressing. As for ourselves, we had a feeling of excitement and triumph at being able to retrace some of the steps of our family’s ancestors and connect with then as having been real people and not just words in a book or from the mouth of some storyteller. The members of our King family who occupy these graves once lived, loved, raised families, contributed to the world they knew, and took their places with the ages, still offering words of hope to those who followed. This was indeed a great day—a day to pay tribute to some special family members who were here first and who want to be remembered!